The strongest storm to strike Florida in over a decade unleashed its wrath on Friday, killing at least 15 people and rendering thousands homeless before slowing down. By Saturday, Christian and other humanitarian groups joined the governmental effort to assist the victims, dispatching hundreds of relief workers and disaster relief units with water, medical kits, food and blankets.
Hurricane Charley, a category 4 storm, hit the densely populated Florida coast with winds up to 145 mph. Along its path of destruction it flattened oceanfront homes and knocked electrical services to an estimated 2 million homes and businesses. Luckily, much of the areas population had already evacuated either to shelters or to other cities, thereby limiting the death poll in Florida to five; Hurricane Andrew, the 1992 storm that cost the state $31 billion in damages, claimed the lives of 43 residents.
After hitting the Florida coast, Charley lifted off the ground, went across the open ocean and landed for the second time on South Carolinas Grand Strand resort region before moving onto North Carolina.
Although Charley slowed to a 75 mph storm by its second landfall, it left behind many more victims: ten deaths have been confirmed and hundreds of people were unaccounted for. Many of these deaths came from the 31 mobile-parks in the area.
The fifteen total deaths in America add to Charleys three victims in Cuba and one in Jamaica earlier in the week.
President Bush, who offered his condolences to the victims, said he would visit Florida on Sunday see the damage. Bush had already declared storm-struck counties as major disaster areas, thereby allowing federal relief funds to be used for this purpose.
Meanwhile, the American Red Cross set up more than 250 disaster relief shelters in Florida and 40 in the Carolinas. Their staff members and volunteers have already begun providing dry clothing, meals, medical aid and counseling to the victims.
"This is our largest hurricane disaster operation since Hurricane Andrew," said Red Cross president Marty Evans.
The Salvation Army also mobilized relief workers around the Tampa area; workers had been stationed in the nearby State Disaster Command Center in Tampa prior to Charelys landing to provide immediate assistance to the victims.
Kevin Smith, coordinator of the Center, explained on Thursday, While we are mobilizing our forces in and around the Tampa Bay area, we know there will be effects from the storm inland that will also need our attention. This is certainly going to be a test of our resources.
By Saturday, the Salvation Army had 43 mobile feeding units and mass feeding units, refrigeration units, shower and sleeping trailers set up in the affected regions.
To give to the survivors of Hurricane Charely, please visit: www.salvationarmy.org or call: 1800 Sal-Army